Military families have several resources to help them vote by absentee ballot -- whether they're in another state or another country -- and they just gained one more.
The Military Officers Association of America launched the nonpartisan web portal "Absentee Voting Guide" for troops and family members of all service branches and ranks.
In addition, service members and their eligible family members can use the Defense Department's nonpartisan Federal Voting Assistance Program website and installation voting assistance offices.
DoD's program is its tool for complying with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which applies to military members and their families, wherever they're located; and U.S. citizens living outside the U.S.
Through the FVAP.gov website, these voters can find tools and resources to help them vote from any other state, or anywhere in the world. Voters are directed to states' websites to download registration and ballot requests, or they can download the Federal Post Card Application and submit it to their local election official. The FVAP site helps find contact information for those local election officials. Many states allow these voters to request the ballot online.
The MOAA guide helps troops and families who are away from their home voting district find the address of their local board of elections in order to request an absentee ballot.
The process of voting by absentee ballot can be confusing, said Mike Turner, executive director of the MOAA Military Family Initiative. "We worked to design a simple, clean conduit for them to request an absentee ballot."
"We have a membership that trusts us. We watch out for military families. They may not have heard about FVAP, but they may know about MOAA," Turner said.
Troops of all ranks and services and their families are eligible to access the voting guide; they don’t have to be a member but they must create an account, providing a name and email address. If they are not members of MOAA, but are eligible for membership, they will receive a free basic membership for three years.
The DoD Federal Voting Assistance Program and the Democracy Fund were involved in every step of developing the MOAA voting guide, Turner said. The initiative was funded by a grant from the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation established "to help ensure that the American people come first in our democracy," according to the foundation’s website.
"This is one more way to download" information about requesting a ballot, Turner said.
"MOAA’s highly respected voice allows them to speak directly to military voters and help all military family members understand the absentee voting process and their voting rights as citizens," said Stacey Scholl, program associate for elections at the Democracy Fund.
"As an organization we’re eager to learn more about the needs of this community through our grant to the MOAA Military Family Initiative’s Military Voter Education Project," she said.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.